Tributes are being shared to celebrate the legacy of pioneering actor Cicely Tyson, who has died aged 96 this week.
Cicely Tyson has died aged 96.
“With heavy heart, the family of Miss Cicely Tyson announces her peaceful transition this afternoon. At this time, please allow the family their privacy,” her manager Larry Thompson announced on Thursday 28 January.
The pioneering actor was known and celebrated for always portraying strong Black female characters. She won two Emmys for her performance in the 1974 civil rights-era film The Autobiography Of Miss Jane Pittman. And she became the first Black woman to take on a main role in the TV drama East Side/West Side in the 60s.
Tyson was just as iconic off-screen, too.
Aside from her achievements as an actor, she also shaped the course of history, and she was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016 by Barack Obama. The former president led the tributes to Tyson’s incredible legacy with a response on Twitter.
“In her extraordinary career, Cicely Tyson was one of the rare award-winning actors whose work on the screen was surpassed only by what she was able to accomplish off of it,” Obama wrote. “She had a heart unlike any other – and for 96 years, she left a mark on the world that few will ever match.”
Michelle added that she will miss Tyson “dearly” as she recalled: “What struck me every time I spent time with Cicely Tyson was not necessarily her star power – though that was evident enough – it was her humanity. Just by walking into a room, she had this way of elevating everyone around her. She was the personification of beauty, grace, wisdom, and strength, carrying forward a flame that not only guided her for 96 pathbreaking years but lit the way for so many of us.”
Viola Davis, who starred alongside Tyson in How To Get Away With Murder, said she was devastated by the news, writing: “You made me feel loved and seen and valued in a world where there is still a cloak of invisibility for us dark chocolate girls.
“You gave me permission to dream….because it was only in my dreams that I could see the possibilities in myself. I’m not ready for you to be my angel yet. But…I also understand that it’s only when the last person who has a memory of you dies, that you’ll truly be dead. In that case, you will be immortal. Thank you for shifting my life.”
Yara Shahidi also shared a photograph of when she filmed with Tyson, captioning it: “From her iconic roles and dedication to her craft, to being the first Black woman to wear her hair naturally on TV, to being my first movie grandmother and guiding me with such care … her impact is TRULY INCALCULABLE.”
“Rest in power Cicely,” Zoë Kravitz added. “Thank you for being such a bright light and inspiration in my life. I know you and grandma Roxie are together now havin a big ol laugh.”
Oprah Winfrey shared a photograph of her favourite time spent with Tyson, which was at the Legends Ball in 2005.
“The idea for the ball originated because I wanted to celebrate HER, and other remarkable Black women who carved a path and built a bridge for me and generations to follow,” she captioned it. “What a joy to honour her and feel her receive it! I loved her hat so much, she sent it to me afterwards.
She added: “Cicely decided early on that her work as an actor would be more than a job. She used her career to illuminate the humanity of Black people. The roles she played reflected her values; she never compromised. Her life so fully lived is a testimony to greatness.”
And Tracee Ellis Ross shared a poignant clip from a recent interview Tyson did ahead of the release of her memoir, Just As I Am.
Asked what she’d like people to remember about her, Tyson replied: “I’ve done my best. That’s all.”
Images: Getty, Instagram